The next time you visit the Okanagan Heritage Museum, you may hear something a bit different—Spanish.
In celebration of BC Heritage Week (February 2 to 27), Mexico City-native Maria Garcia will host a Saturday afternoon presentation of her wildly popular Los Tours del Museo (The Museum Tours) on February 26.
Garcia moved to Canada nearly a decade ago with her Canadian husband, leaving behind a career in education and communications in Mexico.
Like many newcomers to Canada, Garcia had difficulty finding work in her desired field and resorted to working jobs outside of her trained profession.
In 2020 she moved to Kelowna from Edmonton with her husband, and a timely job opportunity with Kelowna Museums would allow the Mexican culture lover to return to her passion.
Today, visitors to the Okanagan Heritage Museum are likely to be greeted by Maria, the Museum Services Coordinator.
As Garcia settled into her new community, she was struck by how many Spanish conversations she overheard, from chats in the street to discussions at the grocery store.
So she pitched the Kelowna Museums Society’s Executive Director, Linda Digby, on offering a tour of the Okanagan Heritage Museum in Spanish. Linda loved the idea, and a new line of programming was born.
“I love [the Okanagan Heritage Museum]. This place, the people in this place, make you feel like you belong right away. I didn’t feel like an outsider,” says Maria. “
And I am doing things that are more my thing. I have the chance to speak Spanish… to people! So, to me, these tours are like a personal and professional resurrection.”
Since the inception of Los Tours del Museo in 2021, the response from the local Hispanaphone community has been strong.
Garcia has welcomed attendees who are long-time residents of Kelowna and people who have been in the Okanagan for just a few weeks. But no matter their individual stories, attendees are connecting and gaining a deeper understanding of their new home.
“For me, it’s important that people come to the museum because the museum is not just a place that keeps the past alive. It's also a place to reflect and understand the present,” she said. “
If this is our new home, we have to understand what happened here. Why people are the way they are, the history, the problems—all the things that have happened here, so we can feel that we belong. Because when you don't understand, when you don't know, it's like you're a foreigner all the time. These tours are a way of integrating and helping people understand the history of the area.”
Visitors will learn about geological features, biodiversity, the First Nations people and early settlers. Conducted entirely in Spanish, the next tour is on Saturday, February 26, from 3 to 4 pm at the Okanagan Heritage Museum (470 Queensway).
This tour is by donation—suggested at $5 for individuals or $15 for families. Pre-registration is not required.